Judging progress

Jill will have a report from this morning’s skate, but for now, I talked to Derek Armstrong yesterday about how to judge team improvement. The Kings enter tonight’s game with a 10-9-3 record, which, at this point, probably exceeds reasonable preseason expectations. It’s easy, from the outside, to comment on things the Kings have improved on, but I wanted to get a player’s opinion about how things might be improving. Armstrong is one of the few veterans on the team and usually has strong insight to the locker-room culture, so here are his thoughts…

ARMSTRONG: “You see the young guys who really seem to get along in here. There are no egos in here, and out of the young guys there are some leaders emerging on the team. When a team is struggling and everybody is 28 or 30 (years old), there’s not much upside, but when you have guys who are 24 and playing quality minutes and quality hockey, it’s much better. And for some of them, it’s their first or second year. It just seems like all the young kids really get along in the dressing room. There’s no tension and no egos, and I think that’s the most important thing.”

Here’s what Armstrong said about the Kings’ ability to bounce back. Only once this season have the Kings lost more than two games in a row. They had an 0-3-2 stretch at one point, but followed that up with a four-game winning streak…

ARMSTRONG: “The coaches get us prepared, and it’s the job of some of the older guys in here to remind people that it’s a long year. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs, and every team goes through it. It’s just important to stay consistent and to use practice to your advantage. It’s important that we practice the right way, and the coaches have really kept us on track. They make sure practice is going the proper way, and that’s how you get better as a young team. The time that you’re on the ice, you go to your full ability and you try to learn every day.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
  • wavesinair

    Nice insight by the kings elder statesman. Gotta love Army’s attitude. To me, it’s what hockey’s all about. I was never impressed by his hockey talent, but you gotta love his heart and you gotta love that the locker room, led by Brown, looks to be focused, loose, calm and above all, together.

  • mrbrett7

    I’m going to say it now, and I know I’m going to get lambasted for it, but whatever.

    Armstrong needs to be resigned (if he wants to stay). Why? I believe wholeheartedly in the “youth movement”, but you cannot have only kids throughout the entire lineup. You MUST have a few vets sprinkled here and there, regardless of talent level, to teach and to show leadership to the youth coming up through the ranks. Armstrong is playing his role perfectly right now, and is earning his paycheck, even if he never steps foot on the ice during a game.

    I’d really like to see him back for at least another year. He has earned that right. He busts his ass, and does anything and everything ever asked of him, and has done so every year he has been here in LA, with no questions asked, no complaining.

  • Marty

    Now if we could just sit him and Calder in favour of those kids we would be getting better not stagnating as a .500 club.

  • Anonymous

    This is where are future vets (Fro and Brown) should be learning. It won’t be long and they will be the “old” team members at 27 and 25.

    Go Kings!!!

  • Marty

    mrbrett7
    Armys no good ,give it up.Time to move on to bigger and better and younger players.

  • nykingfan

    mrbrett7

    I agree with you on Army. It’s not always about stats. The guy obviously brings something to the lockeroom and to the practices that is more than just goals/assists.
    I also took from the article that Brownie must be doing a great job as captain. You get the feeling that he’s made everyone comfortable in the room, which was something he said he would make an effort to do.

  • Nick

    Yeah, let’s give a young player Army’s role. Then you can complain about how said young player does not get enough ice-time.

  • EAT THE RICH

    Marty,

    I agree. We’re holding the fort with the expensive older guys, but when efforts by younger guys are ignored, they’ll eventually resign themselves to being second choice I love Armstrong, but he’s never been an NHL guy except with the Kings. I like what he brings to the team, but he’s not an every night guy anymore. The team is treading water because of the player-management and it looks like certain players are going to get played because of their contracts (not to mention who drafted them).

  • Kevco

    I would love to see him stay one more year too! O’Donnel too! We need a few veterans as well as the youth. When Army plays a few game here and there he plays well. And he seems liked by the other players as well as stands up for his team mates on the ice.

  • mrbrett7

    So…Marty, you think it’s better to have a team completely made up of kids? That’s crazy…name one team that has been successful in the modern era with that type of lineup.

    Even if they are only playing 4th line minutes (like Armstrong is), you must have a handfull of veterens around.

  • Marty

    mrbrett7
    You have O’Donnel that is effective in his role but no offense Armstrong is taking up valuable icetime that a Richardson or Boyle could use to establish themselves in a role on this team.The window for this core is really small when you think of it.So lets get on with it.Sadly Armys not needed even on the Kings unless you want to end up lower in the standings.This is even more evident with Calder,cut your losses .

  • mrk

    Marty/EAT THE RICH

    Read Nicks post and learn

    Nick said:
    “Yeah, let’s give a young player Army’s role. Then you can complain about how said young player does not get enough ice-time.”

    Let me know if you find somebody that is willing to accept a role that Army has and plays as well as Sully does. I’m not a big Army fan but Army does serve a purpose in this team like it or not.

    Good thing your opinion-and mine for that matter-stops here.

  • Duckhunter

    I’m one who will not crap on loyalty. I support and will always support Armstrong. For a couple years, prior to and the year after the strike, Army was the heart and soul on this team. He fought every night when the rest of the team gave up. I will never forget that. And he still plays his tail off today with the same great attitude. I agree, he has well earned the right to be part of this team. I hope he’s around in some capacity when the Kings start making long pushes in the playoffs. I’d walk the alleyway with you Mr. Armstrong. This kind of character is needed on a team, and I can say with confidence, (although I don’t have any inside source) the rest of the boys are rooting for Army to be part of this team.

  • mrbrett7

    Okay…so O’Donnel who after this season, will most likely be gone, along with Calder.

    Even if O’Donnel is still around, it’s basically he and Handzus…that is TWO, TWO veterens on an extremely young team.

    Try again Marty…4th line minutes should never go to young offensive forwards trying to make their mark. 4th line minutes are for energy guys, who will do what they can in their 7-9 minutes/night that they do get.

    Boyles problem right now is misuse. Right now, there isn’t a spot for him on this team. He is an offensive centerman being asked to play 4th line minutes in a physical role. This is something he has never done in his life, and it’s an extremely difficult adjustmant for any player to make, especially at his age. He has lost all confidence, and is being sent back down to Manchester to play 1st and/or 2nd line minutes, which is really where he should be playing…there just isn’t a spot for him right now due to the surprises of Moller and Simmonds (more Moller though). Moller was never supposed to make this team, and it’s his minutes that Boyle was “supposed” to get. I don’t have a problem with it, but that is what is going on.

    Armstrong isn’t stealing minutes from anyone. You want to be a professional hockey player? Go out and EARN your ice time…NOTHING is handed to you.

  • StillKingly

    Boyle got sent down because he needs to learn to be a two way player. That is what TM said in the interview. Its not that he isnt on the right line or anything else, he is not playing the kind of hockey you have to play to remain in the NHL. I remember at the GM breakfast last year DL saying that once players earn their spot in the NHL it is that much more difficult to get them to learn or play differently. I makes sense, use AHL to make players do what you want, because once they are stable, in biger contracts you cannot afford to send them down to become better players.

  • Mark

    I loved Armstrong a few years ago but recently I stopped liking him, until this year. This year he has shown integrity and determination. He wants to be out there to help his team, but more importantly, he’ll cheer from the stands if he has to. He’s a great guy to see for the 10 or so minutes he plays and he will stand up for his team.

    Remember when Ribeiro pointed at the bench after the shootout? Who was pissed off and stood up for his team – Army did.

    The problem is that 4th line guys have a very linear use. It is no wonder Ivanans, Army, and Zeiler get played. They annoy the other team and keep them in check. I would probably prefer Westgarth of Ivanans and Clune over Zeiler but this is working pretty well, so long as they aren’t overplayed.

    But one thing I’ve noticed is that even last year, if a team would put out their big hitting line against Kopitar and Brown, who would we put with them? Ivanans. Is it any wonder why? Its so the other team knows they can’t screw with us. Ivanans may not be the best guy out there, but he won’t back down from a fight.

  • THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS

    Go out an earn it like Zeiler and Preissing…

    WHo’s idea was it to play Boyle with Ivanans and Zeiler? Brilliant line combo.

  • nykingfan

    Marty
    You think the window for this core is small?
    You are out of your mind. They are all young and signed long term. The window is pretty big for this core.
    You need a mix of veterans and young players to be successful.
    Army serves the role of part time player and mentor to a lot of the younger guys. Right now that’s more valuable than having Boyle figure skate around for 9 minutes a night. You can’t expect a young player to get used to sitting 7 out of 10 games and keeping himself ready for those other 3 games. It doesn’t work that way.
    Boyle will get his minutes in Manchester and Army will continue to be ready for whenever TM calls his number.

  • THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS

    Bub?

    I’ve already posted numerous times the lineup I’d play with:

    O’sull – Boyle – Brown
    Frolov – Kopitar – Moller
    Ivanans – Handzus – Richardson/Purcell
    Calder – Stoll – Simmonds

    Armstrong, Ivanans, Purcell, Richardson, and Boyle can all take time as scratches based on the needs of the game, health, and form.

    Handzus is better adapted to cover for weaker linemates than Boyle, while I believe Boyle could fit in with two great players alongside him and play a really well rounded game.

    The criticism of Boyle is so blind it’s not worth responding to.

  • Anonymous

    Try me Butthole (can’t even take you seriously with that name).

    Your lines make no sense. Why would you change the ENTIRE lineup just to get two guys in?

    2nd…Purcell would have been on this team if he EARNED it. He didn’t. He is not.

    3rd. What does having Purcell and Boyle sit do for their development?

  • BringBackKingston

    Re which line BB plays and the claim that he needs to be on the top 2 lines to produce:
    Last year, his first 2 nhl goals came while he was playing with moulson and giuliano. His only assist came while playing with moulson and giuliano. Half of his nhl points have come while on the 4th line. I don’t think his lack of production this year is the result of being stuck on the 4th line.

    Is BB more than a good wrist and snap shot?
    Don’t get me wrong, just like a win is a win, a goal is a goal. But i think there is a pattern with the goals he has scored. All his goals are the result of another player battling for the puck or beating a defender and passing it to BB in the slot for a one-timer or quick shot. The one thing that sticks out to me on his goals is that he is not creating his own chances or creating chances for others. Not only can top liners like Brown, Kopitar, Sully or Fro put passes to them in the net but they can create their own chances or chances for others by their individual play. I think that is the sign of any good player on a top line. Especially as a center, he needs to be able to create scoring chances for others. And 1 assist won’t cut it. Yes, he can put the puck in the net, even while playing on the 4th line, but right now he has shown he is nhl proficient in only 1 aspect of his game.

    BB as a center:
    He just isn’t cutting it as a center. Most say because he is an offensive player he needs to be on a top line. But even 1st and 2nd line centers must be defensively capable for all their offensive prowess. Heck, look at Kopitar. His main area to improve is his defense. BB hasn’t shown any individual improvement this area. And you don’t need to be on a top line to learn this either (see Sully from last season and the year before). Also, he just doesn’t strike me as a play maker. If all BB is is a nice wrist or snap shot he should be moved to wing to see if can develop there.

    Above all he has to earn his time on the top line.

  • jet

    Hey Butthole – Boyle can not keep up defensively. He was picking up a hooking penalty every other game. He seemed to have the most trouble figuring out the system in training camp of any player out there. He may have been perfect for last year’s team, score a goal, then give up inside position on the defensive end for the next 5 shifts. But, this year we are playing championship style hockey. We may or may not make the playoffs, but we are getting better. And, the kids are a large part of that success. Boyle needs to decide if he wants to be part of it.

    First 10 games: 3 – 6 – 1
    Second 10 games: 5 – 3 – 2
    Third 10 games: 2 – 0 – 0

    Yes, that is 7-3-2 in our last 12 games without our best Dman.

  • THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS

    BBK – When has Boyle played with the Kings on anything other than the 4th line. In the last shutout loss to the Ducks, he nearly went coast to coast twice and was the only player who really got a “scoring chance.” Besides that he WAS physical and laid out Huskins on the fore-check that went unnoticed because of the camera work.

    Simmonds has been getting time with better players and has 3 points after a 1/4 of the season. There’s no outcry about lack of production because he’s young and finding his feet.

    I think you have to set players up to succeed, not fail.
    If he’s not good enough for the top lines, trade him to someone who thinks he is…
    It’s not like we have a shortage of checking line players.

    As a fan of this team, it’s frustrating to watch players played out of position and then read these comments about how they’re not performing. It’s also frustrating to hear the coach criticize guys when he set them up to fail.
    The merry-go-round of forward line combinations has produced the inconsistency, in my opinion.

  • Nick

    There isn’t an outcry about Simmonds’s production because he shows effort. It looks like he’s trying. Boyle had completely disappeared in his last few games, only showing up to make a mistake here and there.

    Also, Simmonds was deservingly demoted to the 4th line recently after a few turnovers in the neutral zone in the game against Calgary (Edmonton?). Boyle has had some solid games this year. There was even a 4-5 game stretch during which I thought he deserved some time on a higher line. That doesn’t mean he can just stop playing and coast and get rewarded for lackluster effort. He needs to work hard like Sully and Simmonds do/did to earn more ice-time, and he had stopped doing that.

    Plus, the line combos are so much more consistent this year than last, it’s mind-boggling that anyone would complain about that. I watch the Capitals all the time (their games are typically on earlier in the day so it’s easy to watch them and the Kings), and they go with different line combos pretty often. Granted, they’ve dealt with injuries this year, but even among their healthy players they shuffle the deck pretty constantly (aside from the top line since Semin went down). I don’t think anyone is about to argue that Boudreau is a bad coach that doesn’t know what he’s doing either. In game, the line combinations are actually extremely consistent. Last year we had different line combinations every third shift. It was like Crow was drawing names out of a hat.

  • goring 19

    The team is playing great- I would like to see more from the D in terms of mtg rushes at the blue line as opposed to backing off so much

  • THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS

    Jet – You make zero sense on this one. Selective criticism is pointless. Should we beat up on Moller for taking some bad penalties like that double-minor last game or the hooking penalty he took to create a 2 minute 5on3 a few games back? No. Boyle was set up to fail by Murray by being played on a horrible line. Was he guilty of failing when O’Sullivan and Harrold were on his line?
    And, didn’t you get the memo that Doughty is our best Dman?
    And, of those past 12 games I think Boyle played in all but 1. How does that argument make any sense?

    Nick – I wasN’T saying there should be an outcry over Simmonds. To the contrary, I was saying that these YOUNG guys need to be given long stretches on a consistent line. Simmonds hasn’t produced statistically, but he’s doing well as a part of the “checking” team we’re seeing and I expect him to benefit later from getting tons of ice-time now. Maybe Boyle’s ‘send-down’ will help him get better this year, but I think he’s ready to stay here and either develop over the year or move on. If not for their status we’d have seen Armstrong, Calder, and Richardson (maybe even handzus) getting shuffled between LA and Manchester, not to mention Preissing.
    Maybe this is the best move based on the coaching. I would not be surprised if Lombardi wanted him playing more but isn’t going to force Murray’s hand. If so, fine, I’m just saying that in my opinion I think he should be playing now and that I don’t like our line combos.

  • Nick

    Boyle was set up to fail by Murray by being played on a horrible line.

    This remains a bad argument. If he tries hard, he’s not going to fail. He’s not going to be benched. He’s not going to be sent down. He wasn’t giving the effort desired by the coaching staff, so he got the temporary boot. He might not score, but the effort matters. We’ve seen players move up through the ranks of the lines in the past, it’s not impossible. I mean, again using the capitals as comparison, last year Nicklas Backstrom had to earn more playing time by playing with Donald Brashear and Matt Bradley. He did an excellent job, got playing time with the big guns after he earned it. Now he is now a pretty solid player in just his second year in the NHL. It’s a tried and true method to developing players. Also worth noting is the fact that Backstrom’s profile was MUCH higher last year than Boyle’s was this year.

  • THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS

    Nick,
    wake up. Boyle was minus – 1 over the last 11 games before Calgary. What’s wrong with that? Moller was only slightly better over the past 11 games and has only 3 assists during that time and he gets PP time.
    Murray doesn’t know what his best lineup is. That’s why he’s juggling like crazy and playing Harrold as a winger.
    You’re bringing up Backstrom to support your point? Give Boyle the ice time Backstrom gets and you’ll at least know who he is. Right now we have no clue.
    The argument that he wasn’t trying is lame. It’s coaching rhetoric. If Boyle doesn’t deserve to be on the top 2 lines, why does Calder or Moller. Based on the month of November they weren’t any better considering their and their PP time.
    You’ve brought up Washington twice, I guess because they made the playoffs, but would you trade Boyle for Steckel? I wouldn’t. But Steckel’s playing regularly.
    You’re saying my argument is bad? I think the “boyle doesn’t try” argument is pissing in the wind.
    Why has the first 1/4 of the season been rife with these comments:
    -why is kopi struggling?
    -why is o’sullivan struggling?
    -why do we keep losing by 1 goal?
    -why can’t we win by more than 1 goal?
    -why is harrold playing wing?
    -why is calder on the top line?
    -why can’t this team score?
    -why are we getting shutout so much?
    -why can’t we score on the PP?
    -why did we trade a 2nd for richardson is he’s not going to play?
    -why isn’t purcell getting a chance?
    -why is labarbara the no.1?
    -why isn’t ersberg getting a chance?
    -how can we be sure we’re getting better?

    Sure, we’re good defensively, but all the stuff up front is Murray’s fault, not the players.
    If Boyle isn’t good enough, trade him, but quit dicking around and saying he’s not trying. It’s bs.

  • Anonymous

    why are the kings 1 game over .500?

  • nykingfan

    Butthole
    You know why your argument makes no sense? Because you equate everything to statistics.
    Since Moller has only 3 assists over his last 11 games, we should lump him the same as Boyle? I see Moller on the ice working his ass off. He makes plays on the power play, that if not for a good save, would have turned into points. Or if Kopitar has 0 points but makes good defensive plays.. Does that not count for you?
    Did you watch what Boyle was doing out on the ice? It was obvious to most of us that he wasn’t moving his feet. He wasn’t using his body effectively, and at least in my opinion, he spent his last game figure skating.

    You seem to have this conspiracy thing going on that TM has it in for Boyle and some other players.
    Tell me why this is? Does he know them and despise them so much as to deliberately sabotage the team and their careers? Is he that evil a man?
    Or is it that maybe in his PROFESSIONAL opinion, he feels that after watching players perform in game,in practice, and on film that his line combination’s and roster moves make perfect sense to him AND his coaching staff?
    Hockey is not baseball. Its not all about how many goals you score…etc It’s a team game that places as much, if not more emphasis on defense than it does on offensive production.

  • Nick

    Give Boyle the ice time Backstrom gets and you’ll at least know who he is.

    Way to COMPLETELY IGNORE the point I was making. Is your reading comprehension really that bad? Backstrom EARNED his ice-time by playing with 4th liners. He earned it by working hard on the 4th line. He earned it. Boyle didn’t. Boyle was inconsistent and at times just plain bad. He got sent down. He’s most certainly not more deserving than Handzus or Kopitar or Stoll as far as being in the top 6. I’d even hesitate to put him above Calder at this point. For all of his shortcomings, at least Calder shows energy and effort. Boyle will, with time. But he wasn’t doing the work he needed to do on the 4th line and he didn’t deserve to play any higher up. I don’t even see this as a bad thing, really. It’s a wake up call. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to work himself out of the rut he’s in, and he’ll be back better than he was before.

  • THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS

    nykingfan,

    Maybe my arguments come across garbled in writing. did you read all my posts about this subject? and the one’s i’m responding to? I’m not saying to lump Moller and Simmonds in with Boyle, I’m saying lump Boyle in with Moller and Simmonds and keep playing him, maybe even on a decent line. I don’t have a conspiracy theory so much as don’t like Murray’s line combo’s and tinkering.
    I think everyone on this team is giving a great effort just about every night. There are some games individuals would like to forget, but overall I’ve been surprised and delighted by the effort. Boyle included.
    I didn’t see the Calgary game but said before it that Murray’s line combo’s looked like a recipe for failure. If you remember, he moved O’Sullivan up to the first line and then juggled everything else out of order. The Calgary result wasn’t a surprise to me.

    Anonymous said:
    why are the kings 1 game over .500?

    Why aren’t they 7 or 8 games over .500?

  • THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS

    Nick,

    I’m going to take you up on your suggestion and completely ignore anymore discussion on this.

  • small man, big mouth

    Anonymous said:
    why are the kings 1 game over .500?

    I’d say it has a lot to do with 5 guys named Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov, Drew Doughty, and Patrick O’Sullivan and a whole lotta commitment to defense by the marginal men.